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The Barber of Seville

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A wonderful presentation by Opera Columbus.

Braving the cold and otherwise resisting the urge simply to stay home, I headed off to see the Opera Columbus presentation of The Barber of Seville on opening night, Friday, January 30. My effort was well-rewarded.

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais wrote three Figaro plays: The Barber of Seville (1775), The Marriage of Figaro (1784), and The Guilty Mother (1792). After varying levels of resistance by French censors, each of the plays enjoyed a public audience -- the first enjoying acclaim; the second, success; and the third generally being considered a success, though the least successful of the trilogy.

The first two of the plays were adapted into operas. Giovanni Paisiello wrote the first opera from the Figaro plays, enjoying significant success with his adaptation of The Barber of Seville. The second opera from Figaro plays was Mozart's Le nozze de Figaro. (I was delighted to see Opera Columbus present it in 2001.) Gioacchino Rossini wrote the third opera from the Figaro plays, adapting The Barber of Seville some thirty years after Paisiello's success.

Though I had heard some of the music from Rossini's Barber of Seville, I had not seen the opera. Call me an American optimist forever in search of a happy ending, but I was glad to see that it did not conclude as do so many of Verdi's operas -- with the main characters dying (of "consumption") at the end. The story is a pleasant one and amusing. Some consideration of the historical context is in order: European aristocracy is portrayed in a light that suggests that persons of rank might not be omniscient. (Anyone interested in tha side of the story might be inclined to see Figaro Trilogy: Beaumarchais.)

Despite its pokes at The Establishment and the dramatic elements from a budding romance, Beaumarchais' Barber of Seville was a comedy, running on Com�die-Fran�ais. As an opera, the comedic elements can translate quite well, as evidenced by Friday's performance. An audio recording of the performance would be possible, but in such a recording of The Barber of Seville, I suspect that more than usual would be lost. There was a bit of physical comedy, some excellent interaction between cast members that would require seeing to understand. Endless schemes hatched by Figaro (how creative Figaro gets when he has money!) to help Count Almaviva win the heart of Rosina prove an amusing framework for the story to unfold.

I thought the performance first rate, and am happy I saw it. Having season tickets for several years running provides a greater opportunity to appreciate the talents of the cast. As they're observed from role to role across operas, their diversity and talent become more clear. As usual, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra accompanied Opera Columbus on the production.

Comparison of the performance with others is difficult; The Barber of Seville is a very different opera from many others, particularly my favorites, which tend to be from among the crowd-pleasing romantic variety like Tosca, La Boh�me, and La Traviata. (Maybe I just blew any possible claim to sophistication in taste. Sooth, I care not if I did; the music in all three is wonderful.) Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself immensely, I saw an opera I had not before seen, and I imagine that when the opportunity presents itself, I'll again see it.

Created by cmcurtin
This article originally appeared on Sunshine Poultry.
Last modified 2004-08-23 04:31 PM
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